Good news, bad news


Former Senate President
Manny Villar

Do you ever feel that the world around you is falling apart? Or that the end of the world is near? As I prepare to write this column, (Oct. 30) I browsed the headlines of the major newspapers and I had a feeling that disaster after disaster are happening all over the world. Forty-eight people were killed by the onslaught of Tropical Storm Paeng including 31 people who perished in flash floods and landslides in Maguindanao del Norte.

And then there was the horrific news of at least 149 people crushed to their deaths when a huge crowd celebrating Halloween surged into an alley in a nightlife area in Seoul. Add to these the deluge of news about deaths worldwide arising from the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and the war between Ukraine and Russia and you get that feeling of impending doom.

I remember feeling this way around the first few days on July this year around the time when we found out about the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the hands of an assassin. Despites Japan’s strict gun laws, a man shot him to death at a campaign sortie during parliamentary elections. The Japanese nation and the world was shocked.

It was also the same day when U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his decision to step down as a response to a number of scandals that has rocked his leadership tenure in Britain. The following day Sri Lankan protesters stormed the residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa amid ongoing protests against government inaction on severe shortages of fuel, food, and medicine.

Aside from Covid-19, there also news about the outbreak of Monkeypox cases in New York City and in many countries in Europe. What made it terrifying was the report that symptoms of the virus are similar to the flu, and often involve a fever along with painful lesions on the body that turn into scabs over the weeks.

Add to all these the constant barrage of grim economic and financial news that only add to the feeling that this might be the end of the world as we know it. I often seek the business section of newspapers first thing in the morning and there are some bad news there—inflation, an impending global food crisis, higher than normal debt to GDP ratio, and flat economic growth all around.

So, is this the end of the world? Well, I really do not know if these events are the portent of Armageddon but I do not think things are getting worse. I do not believe that we are experiencing more disasters now compared to past generations. Look at the destruction and the pain of World War I and World War II. I can only imagine what the people during that time were thinking. They probably thought that was the end of their world. Or imagine if we were alive during the Great Depression in 1929 when millions lost their jobs and many had to give up everything or do terrible things just for food. Think about 1349 when the Black Death almost wiped-out half of Europe, or 1918, when the flu killed an estimated 100 million people.

Disasters, whether natural or man-made, have always been with human history. But I think the reason we feel that they are piling up one after the other is because of advances in communication technology and social media. Today you can have all the news instantaneously from all over the world. In the age of social media, the news—mostly bad news that shocks and sells—is delivered in real-time right in your hands while you hold and read your smartphone.

In the past it will take some time before the news are gathered and disseminated to people all over the world. I remember waiting for the news as we gathered in front of our transistor radio. Then there were the newspapers that brought all the news from here and around the globe.

But today is different. Right there in your hands is a device that has an app where you have a feed that gives you everything. Just like all advances in technology, they have a good side and a bad side. It empowers us by keeping us informed but it also creates this feeling of powerlessness because we seem to be inadequate amid this flurry of events engulfing our world.

That is why my advice is stay off social media once in a while. If there is ever a time when blissful ignorance is positive this is it. Do not worry about the whole world crumbling down let us all focus on our corner of the world and how to it better, happier.

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